Macon County commissioners almost couldn’t hold a meeting Monday night because they couldn’t agree on a new chairman.
With newly elected state Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, absent because of a mandatory meeting in Raleigh, the board split 2-2 over whether former Chairman Ronnie Beale, a Democrat, should retain the post; or if Brian McClellan, a Republican, would take his place.
Bobby Kuppers, a Democrat, sided with Beale. Ron Haven, a Republican newly elected to the board, took McClellan’s part.
“We’re the majority now,” Haven said bluntly.
Davis will leave the commission board next month. Republican Kevin Corbin will fill the two years remaining on Davis’ four-year term.
Following a five-minute recess called by acting chairman and County Manager Jack Horton, the Democrats returned to acknowledge they’d lose the battle at some point, anyway. At least as soon as Davis, a Republican stalwart, could cast his vote for McClellan.
Kuppers said he’d learned from Horton and board attorney Chester Jones that legally the commissioners could do nothing until a chairman was appointed.
“If we do not reconcile this logjam, the meeting will adjourn and we will be able to conduct no business,” Kuppers said, adding that he was casting his support to McClellan with “great reservation and trepidation.”
“We are here to do the business of the people,” Beale said in agreement.
The board unanimously voted to elect McClellan chairman and Kuppers vice chairman.
That taken care of, planning issues took center stage.
Franklin resident Shirley Ches told the board during the public comment period that she was “stunned and appalled” by the recent vote to dump Al Slagle off the planning board in favor of Jimmy Goodman.
“There were under-the-radar manipulations going on,” Ches said. “… fairness would dictate Mr. Slagle be reappointed.”
Emily Dale echoed Ches’ call for placing Slagle back on the planning board.
“I’m very relieved I was not given this same treatment when I was chairman of the planning board 20 years ago,” Dale scolded commissioners.
After a certain amount of polite wrangling, and unheeded pleas from Commissioner Haven to slow down the process, the board of commissioners asked their attorney to look into two matters.
The first question is how they can legally increase the number of planning board members from its current makeup of 11 people to 13 people (there must be an odd number for voting purposes); and at Beale’s specific request, how they can legally remove a member of the planning board who “is detrimental” to the process.
These are the two key factors in whether Slagle can be reappointed to the planning board if he agrees to serve again, and how to kick Goodman off the board if he misbehaves.
Kuppers told Haven dilly dallying serves no good purpose. Best case, it will be January anyway before anything could happen, he said.
“People are excited about this,” Kuppers said, adding that he can’t go anywhere in Macon County right now without hearing people’s concerns about Goodman being placed on the planning board.
Additionally, the Democrat commissioner recommended that at some point the board consider having prospective commissioner-appointed board members vetted by the involved board’s chairman.
McClellan chimed in with the suggestion term limits be reinstated on some boards.
Finally, the board of commissioners agreed to meet with the planning board in January. This meeting, Beale said, is to have the planning board bring commissioners “up to speed on exactly what they are working on.”